Please see below statement to be attributed to AFL Players’ Association General Manager – Player Relations, Ian Prendergast.
The AFL Players’ Association is disappointed with the decision of the VFL Tribunal to suspend Will Minson for four matches, which, combined with the VFL bye and Will being sent off, represents an excessive six-week ban.
The AFLPA respects the role of umpires across all levels of football. We strongly support steps to protect them on the field and are proud of the respect that players show umpires in this regard. However, we believe that the penalty handed down to Will is entirely disproportionate to the act that occurred.
While Will accepts making any intentional contact with the umpire is unacceptable, the video footage suggests that the contact was incredibly slight. For his part, Will was apologetic to the umpire after the incident and has accepted he was in the wrong.
We believe that the penalty recommended by the VFL and the umpires’ advocate – a reprimand and a fine – would have been an appropriate penalty in the circumstances and struck the right balance between penalising the player and sending a strong message. We therefore support Will’s decision to appeal this penalty and hope that common sense prevails.
The AFLPA is concerned that the tribunal processes at second-tier levels have not evolved at the same rate as the AFL tribunal system and will be requesting that the AFL undertake a review to address these issues. We have engaged in correspondence with the AFL on this issue prior to the decision involving Will and consider it important based on the large number of AFL players competing in these leagues and the impact any adverse tribunal decision can have on their AFL careers and livelihood.
Whilst the AFLPA does not seek to influence the decision of the VFL appeals tribunal, it supports Will’s decision to challenge the outcome.